Isn’t desire, Julie Gillis wonders, a good thing for all of us?
Recently, my sons had the annual Halloween festival at their school. Kids were in costume and frantically conniving and pleading for little red raffle tickets, which could buy soda, cookies, and popcorn, or passes for skee-ball, the haunted trail, or the bouncy house.
I was in an odd mood, having spent quite of bit of my lunch hour, and several breaks during the day, commenting and arguing on Tom Matlack’s piece, “Is Male Lust Turning Us Inside Out?” As a woman who loves men, and has boys, parts of the piece irritated me: the idea of male lust being so different than female lust and the double standards in place that make it hard for both men and women to come together in mutually-satisfying sexual relationships.
Why does this have to be so hard? Why can’t we find a good middle ground? Can we be honest with each other? Tom’s post was certainly provocative. The comment thread ran into the hundreds, and I replied, right and left, to nearly every one, but I became increasingly frustrated without understanding why.
While I pondered and tried to shift gears into a festival frame of mind, a good male friend approached to say “hello,” as our children wrangled more tickets and dollars out of us so they could get all the things they wanted.
Just then, an absolutely beautiful woman walked by, dressed like a fairy. My friend and I turned our heads and watched her float past us to the bouncy house. “Man, is she gorgeous,” I said. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who can appreciate that,” he replied. And I did. From the outfit, to how she carried it, both of us appreciated her “look.”
Nearly simultaneously, our local fire station brought over an engine to show the kids. They always volunteer at our festival, and the firemen parked their truck by the raffle table. I noticed a sudden, huge increase in ticket sales as pretty much every mom gathered near the shiny red engines. “Ooh! Firemen!” I said, making my friend laugh. “They’d better watch out, or they’ll wind up covered in soccer moms!” he quipped.
Women don’t lust? Yeah, they do. And yeah, men do too. We all do. We all want, and we all want to feel wanted.
I thought long and hard about my reactions to Tom’s piece over the weekend. After seeing Mika Doyle’s excellent response, “Women Are More Than Just Virgins or Whores,” I started to realize why.
I get annoyed with the binary-ness of lust. Actually, I get annoyed with black-and-white thinking of most every kind: masculine/feminine, gay/straight, win/lose. That kind of thinking creates complete denial, that only men can have a yin and woman can experience yang. It denies the existence of bisexuality. Mostly, it limits us, I think, by making us feel that so long as we are in a box, we are safe, things are understood and comfortable, and no one has to deal with any cognitive dissonance. But boxes don’t contain life, and lots of things aren’t safe or comfortable. We’re not doing ourselves any favors by hiding.
I especially dislike the winner/loser scenario so beautifully outlined by Mika here:
The difference is that, while we may or may not like the results of male lust, men are expected to feel, display, and act upon their lust to a certain extent. Women are simply the recipients of male lust; our lust is shrouded in shame, guilt, and self-denial.
So if men lust and are supposed to express the lust, and women don’t experience lust, where do the men go to fulfill it? A class system, this Madonna and whore dynamic, is built, and women get caught in a never-ending cycle of either lying about or being castigated for their lust.
Women wind up in unsatisfied possessions to be wanted, not partners that share that wanting. Men wind up in constant states of stress, competing for women who withhold a natural desire for sex, intimacy, and love.
If men lust and want to enjoy their lust, then why keep women’s sexuality in a binary little box? If women lust and want to enjoy their lust, why penalize men for expressing theirs? Because that means giving up control of each other. It means men giving up ownership, and women giving up controlling this “resource” so many sex theorists discuss.
Wouldn’t it be better if we could both want each other? If we could share each other’s resources? That’s more of a world I’d like my sons to grow up in, one where they don’t have to feel shamed for having strong desires and one where they don’t feel the need to tamp down the desires of their partners.
It will take a while to get to that place, but I’ll keep working for it.
My children are young still, and they’ve got time to learn about the complexities of sexuality. For now, I’ll leave them to the wanting of candy, raffle tickets, and scary costumes. I’ll watch them as they grow into mature human beings, knowing that wanting and desire, and yes lust, will be a part of what makes them human.
—Photo Lite Speed Photography/Flickr